Deep Thoughts About Twitter

Feb 23, 2012 5:31 pm

To tweet or not to tweet, that is a chef's question

Zak's current twitter icon: a metonym for his personality?
Zak's current twitter icon: a metonym for his personality?
 

I've begun, really within the last week or two, checking twitter in the morning along with email, my ablutions and morning coffee. I'm yet to be diligent about checking: my reservations concerning routine; concern that instagram is now more relevant; I've decided to read the paper; sensitivities to the rush of information at any time of day if flowing from sources outside my own mind; other curiosities; and my unfamiliarity with the forum. To varying degrees, these explain my erratic relationship...with twitter.

Each morning I try, as I scroll, endlessly, through the tiny icons that strive so hard to convey the intent behind the discreet belch of words, metonyms for ideologies and unknown faces, to understand what this is, what it's becoming and how I'd like to use it, if at all. There's the obvious answer: it's a completely unique universe through which a single outburst, a blip of information can knock on the door of more computer screens and smartphones faster than any other delivery system. Ok. Great marketing potential! Undoubtedly a valuable marketing tool. But who's listening? And, if listening, who's retaining? How many modern versions of haikus, pithy insights, pictures of nothing and restaurant recommendations can I scroll through while I sit on the toilet? A shitload.

Is this my Cap'n Crunch? Use it to mitigate the dolorous 10 minutes spent reading the top news on my NYT app? My daily regimen of required humor or, as !!! put it, "break in case of anything. I really mean everything..." There are some funny and witty fuckers out there. This may be my breakthrough, the levity I was looking for before the imminent discussion with my contractor about the wood on my bannister mysteriously splitting in the middle of the night. And, then, doh! Just like an important phone call that starts buzzing bedside while you're mid-coitus, I'm impelled (fuck you, abstract superego!) to follow some bright do-gooder who has brought me the most recent depressing news regarding Monsanto, Atrazine or the gaggle of crazies referred to as the religious right—at the very least the former two have perfected the game of analyzing an industry and beating it, the model all capitalists of good breeding have been following for centuries. (Self edit: religious right should be filed under Cap'n Crunch as they are pure fluff, here to entertain us and, sadly, at times remind us of the ugly side of human conviction.)

A well curated list may be the most concise information/news delivery system I never wished for. Know yourself, become disciplined and focus on and follow only that which truly interests you. The new church of twitter. Discipline be damned; I am both human and American.

But there are those who do show admirable discipline, celebrities who respond to twitter-land queries daily, creating a pseudo sympathetic media presence, the illusion of one-on-one communication. A brilliant way to win and retain loyal followers and, most likely, promote your agenda and/or business, a very effective albeit time-consuming use of the medium, which means it is a real commitment, personalities heavily invested in this tentacle of social media.

Again, though, who is listening and, if they are, when? How does important information that a business or personality X want to get out to followers not end up lost in the twittersphere. I know I certainly don't read through yesterday's tweets, let alone tweets from three hours ago. A retweet or a reply is our only validation. So is this not for important, rather, essential information?

While I find Facebook allows us to indulge our exhibitionist and voyeuristic inclinations, I feel twitter is similar to shouting, or speaking, in the woods, with thousands of other people, simultaneously. On occasion I pluck a conversation out my twitter dalliances, and, on occasion I experience catharsis by blurting my opinion to a realm, where it may be heard. I do find that I hold back, there's an uncertain etiquette I am following (unlike calling religious fundamentalists crazies — though anyone with a well-functioning brain agrees that something is wrong in there and, if they claim not to, do not turn your back to that person other than to run far, far away, as they've a most unsavory agenda), and that may be because this is not anonymous, it's personal, to a point, and, while it's fun to rip on ourselves, others and all the silly things we come across everyday, it's not fun to make someone feel bad, to tell that person I could give a fuck about her cat or his kid or the overwrought plating of some ill-conceived dish of food, it is my choice to look, anyhow.

Is my icon/photo a metonym for my personality or agenda (sort that one out and I'm yours forever)? Currently it's a shot of me helping my son balance a .22 caliber rifle while we were hunting in southwest Texas. I'd say that's somewhat ironic and slightly more unexpected: I don't own a gun, I'm neither a member of the NRA nor a Republican, however I have enjoyed shooting, dressing, butchering, cooking and eating animals.

Far from a conclusion, this medium remains compelling enough for me to continue to toy, to curate and to whittle, to see if what I can make it be for me is satisfying enough for it to go beyond novelty or phase and pass along to programs such as instagram and, I'm sure a thousand others biting at twitter's heels. My fondness for the written word has me hoping that we don't, once again, just give way to images. In fact, I'm resolved to begin whittling my feed to those who write more and post fewer links and photos. Clearly, I'm far from figuring it out.

And, as I chuckle in my airplane seat, I know that I will be sending out a number of tweets from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival where Jori, our friend Dave of Dickson's Farmstand Meats and I will be representing Amstel Light beer and Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue. Unironically, as my friend Marion put it, I happen to really dig Amstel Light and, of course, Fatty and Lady Jayne's Alchemy...and Dave and Dickson's, so why would I not, in the course of my exploration, see if I can use this medium to spread the word for those things of which I am fond, and, to be sure, a few of which I am not.

To cut this ramble off well after it should have been (editor, please!), what I do truly enjoy is when and how twitter can be an individual's voice, unedited and, as Fitzgerald lamented, not "worn down to the inevitable low gear of collaboration." 

Read last week's installment of The Alimentary Canal.

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